Strolling Amok

Pops goes on tour.

4WD Adventure Day!

Why include this in a post about rugged he-man adventure? Because this little bugger was just below my trailer window, peeping loudly and pecking at a dead branch on the ground, looking for bugs. Every day is an adventure for a woodpecker in the low desert.

Why include this in a post about rugged he-man adventure? Because this little bugger was just below my trailer window, peeping loudly and pecking at a dead branch on the ground, looking for bugs. Every day is an adventure for a woodpecker in the low desert.

Originally posted 4/14/2013

For the last couple of days, my sense of accomplishment and rugged individualism has taken a beating. I was so proud to have hauled the Enterprise up a somewhat steep, rough grade to this campsite. Then, two days ago, four or five travel trailers and fifth wheel trailers came up the same path in order to assemble as a group somewhere between a quarter and a half mile away.

Many RVers like to circle the wagons. I took this from the Enterprise. They look like they're close, but this was shot with a 300mm zoom lens

Many RVers like to circle the wagons. I took this from the Enterprise. They look like they’re close, but this was shot with a 300mm zoom lens

They’ve been buzzing past in an assortment of ATVs along the path I’m camped beside, seemingly every half-hour. Dust! One of them was unmuffled, and could be heard anywhere within a mile. They finally packed up and left today, and I drove over and gave the last trailer’s occupants my kerosene jug and one of my two diesel fuel jugs in order to save space and weight in the Ford’s bed. Won’t be needing them, and was glad to foist them off on people who were grateful to get them. Win-win.

They had four common ATVs, two traditional tube-frame dune buggies, and this monstrosity, which was a custom four-seat long-wheelbase dune buggy limo. That looks like a large radiator with two fans on top, but the engine sound was nothing interesting. I had to wonder why he didn't just buy an old Jeep CJ. He must be a fabricator. Makes no sense to pay for the cost to make it, since it had about as much ground clearance as a Buick.

They had four common ATVs, two traditional tube-frame dune buggies, and this monstrosity, which was a custom four-seat long-wheelbase dune buggy limo. That looks like a large radiator with two fans on top, but the engine sound was nothing interesting. I had to wonder why he didn’t just buy an old Jeep CJ. He must be a fabricator. Makes no sense to pay for the cost to make it, since it had about as much ground clearance as a Buick.

Today, I had two major projects, and lots of nuisance projects. The major ones were to empty the truck bed, explore the rough trails up in the hills, and repack the bed so as to place the heavier items nearer the front. So, when everything hit the ground, I took off up the trail.

Here I'm standing a short way up the narrow trail, and you're looking at the trail I actually went up. Doesn't look like much in this shot, does it?

Here I’m standing a short way up the narrow trail, and you’re looking at the trail I actually went up. Doesn’t look like much in this shot, does it?

At the top of the path, two more side trails took off in opposite directions, each heading steeply upward. One was a bit too narrow for the fat Ford, so I swung right and idled up the remaining one. Wow. 2WD took me only a little ways up with the bed empty and that heavy diesel engine weighing down the front. In fact, this time, I almost hadn’t made it up the steepest part of the main road to get here! Into 4WD-Low I went, in order to ease the torque converter’s stress. That path was half rock and half eroded dirt, and the result was a series of deep valleys that made me uncertain as to what might drag when. Those add-on running boards commonly hit the ground first, but I was doing okay – rocking violently from side to side – but nothing on the truck was grounding out on anything. In spite of the Ford’s very stiff and inflexible suspension, none of the tires were slipping, either.

A shot over the dashboard gives just a hint of what it was like along a smoother section.

A shot over the dashboard gives just a hint of what it was like along a smoother section.

Once I made it to the top, the path continued nicely along a ridge. By golly, a Chevy Astrovan was camped off to one side up here! One of the earlier VanDwellers down below had told me that some friends of his were camped up here in their older AWD (all-wheel-drive) Astrovan, a much-coveted model for VanDwellers, and that they’d invited him to come up and camp nearby. He had wanted to try it, but doubted that he’d be able to make it in his old standard-issue 2WD full-size van. Now having experienced the climb up, I understood why.

Ah, da scenery. This is looking out the driver's-side window.

Ah, da scenery. This is looking out the driver’s-side window.

I continued on, and lo and behold, there he was! He’d made it! He had his tent out, his off-road motorcycle parked, and was using the better cellular signal up here to lurk on some Internet forums. I stopped to chat, informing him that he’d just totally trashed this blog entry. I had planned to brag about the impossibly difficult and exciting 4WD trail I’d just conquered in an excessively manly way, and here he was in his crummy “one-wheel-drive” standard van! Usurper! Story assassin!

This branch leads down to the wash running beside my campsite. That's where some deep sand is, a very effective trap for an 8,500-pound vehicle on street tires.

This branch leads down to the wash running beside my campsite. That’s where some deep sand is, a very effective trap for an 8,500-pound vehicle on street tires.

Crushed, I eased down the other side of that hill only to encounter more deep drops, this time solid but eroded spans of rock. Talk about a slow crawl! Anything faster would make you bash your head against the window pillar. I turned around at an intersection just past the bottom, and then headed back up in order to take some pictures at the top. Scenic! I tried to capture just how rough the road was, but the sun’s angle evenly lit and flattened out the divots, so those shots aren’t here. You just have to see it to appreciate it. Think of it as Nature’s flight of stairs.

Once you're up here and see this vista, the slow rock & roll crawl to get up here is forgotten.

Once you’re up here and see this vista, the slow rock & roll crawl to get up here is forgotten.

Once back at Rancho Begley, I started moving stuff into the truck bed and promptly snapped off the plastic pipe mount for the Tankmin’s waste tank breather tube. Oops. I’m approaching the time when the Tankmin’s waste tank may have to be pressed into service! Without that tube in place, using the tank would result in poo spilling out all over the bed and its contents, most particularly on the initial descent back down the incline, and then at every right turn. I ascertained this eventuality as non-optimal, and seeing that the threaded pipe remnant was neatly snapped off and wedged tightly into the vent hole in the tank, I noticed that a growing sense of panic can often be nicely tamped down by the application of confused depression.

Same area from a slightly different vantage point. The Enterprise can scrape its rear bumper on a gas station entrance apron, so I'll never be campin' up here!

Same area from a slightly different vantage point. The Enterprise can scrape its rear bumper on a gas station entrance apron, so I’ll never be campin’ up here!

Think, man, think! I needed to rotate that remnant out somehow, but there was absolutely nothing to grip with pliers, and nothing protruding out of the hole. I tried a punch and hammer on its inside diameter, but it couldn’t get a bite on the plastic pipe. Then I noticed that I had an old chisel in poor condition. Tap, tap. Turn. It bit in, and because the threads had been wrapped in Teflon pipe tape, the remnant rotated neatly out. Whew. Yes, I gave thanks at that moment. I removed the damaged parts from the vent tube assembly itself, and what remained threaded right back into the tank and was still able to change positions in use like it’s supposed to. Oh, baby! Back in business! I reloaded the truck bed (more carefully this time), and once done, went in for a celebratory iced tea. Apart from digging out bins to file away receipts and other boring paperwork, that’s enough adventure for me today!

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